The Champions League is undoubtedly the most coveted competition in all of Europe, and yet, in its most volatile form, anyone has a solid chance at winning it. So who’s it going to be this time around?
Well, there are a few legitimate contenders, and there are a few obvious contenders, such as the likes of Barca, Real, and Bayern. All three of them look as good as they could ever be, especially Real Madrid and Barcelona, with the recent results that they’ve been getting.
But, this season hasn’t been exactly the best in terms of consistency, particularly in the Premier League, which means there’s an even more of a demand for the otherwise good teams to take this trophy away from the elites in the competition. As such, Arsenal, Manchester City, and Chelsea, yes, even Chelsea, are being touted for having a good run in this tournament as the underdogs.
And recent history will tell you that this can be done. Since this is a knockout competition, if you make it through to the Round of 16, then just 2 wins could potentially take you to the final. Teams realize that, and that’s the reason why they give it all that they’ve got and then some. Which, in turn, gives us fans mesmerizing displays of quality football.
Looking at the three European giants in depth will tell you that they are all beatable, though not on their day. Barcelona have had two huge losses to Athletic Bilbao earlier in the season, and to Celta on September, 4-0 and 4-1 respectively. Since then, however, they’ve recouped together as a team and have been brilliant. They’ve lost only 1 game since that Celta game in La Liga, and even that was very close against Sevilla (2-1).
Meanwhile, Real Madrid got the perfect start under Rafa Benitez, but somewhere down the road, they stopped doing what he told them to do, and consequently went through a rough patch. This ended with the manager getting sacked in mid-December, and Zidane’s appointment followed in the aftermath of the situation. Since that managerial change, Real have played in two games and have scored 5 goals in each, devastating their opponents with some spectacular goals. The early signs of their future look very bright under club legend Zidane, and they look set to continue their devastation.
Bayern Munich’s form is almost deceptive when just seen from the Bundesliga’s point of view, as they’ve only lost one game so far in the league. Their indomitable prowess in the league is somewhat expected, and the real measuring of their dominance will come in the Champions League when they face competition that is truly up to the task. Guardiola will look to leave the club in the best way possible and what better way than to gift them the Champions League trophy.
In the Premier League, Arsenal have been the most consistent so far and somewhat justifiably hold their position as top dogs. Wenger will fancy his chances in the competition that he has, for the most part, epitomized failure, but he will not forget the fact that he hasn’t won the Prem title in over 10 years.
Manchester City have turned a corner from their rough early days and are now considered as one of Europe’s best clubs. Their effort in this competition has to be better than the way they’ve been going about operating under Financial Fair Play, and even then they are so unpredictable. On their day, Man City are potentially capable of defeating anyone. Sadly for Manuel Pellegrini, those days don’t come too often in the Champions League for his side.
Chelsea, oh god, where to start. Their Premier League campaign has been so disastrous this season that I’ve gotten sick of hearing it so much. However, they have, in the end, managed to get to the Round of 16 in this competition as group champions, so there might just be light for them at the end of this tunnel.
Hiddink, however, will pray to dear god that his little unbeaten streak in all competitions, at least, brings back some of the confidence that they’ve been dreadfully short of this season, and if he’s able to conjure that in some way, they are potential favorites to win this tournament amongst the Premier League clubs that are in it.
The club that Chelsea will face in the Round of 16, Paris Saint Germain, are also one that are likely to win this year’s tournament, as under Laurent Blanc this team has improved exponentially in a fairly short amount of time. This looks set to be their year, and certainly Zlatan’s, as the Swedish striker is probably entering the final stages of his career, and he will look to exit with valor.
Last but certainly not least by any means, Atlético Madrid have been super-impressive this season in terms of results and now top La Liga, ahead of the big two. The only downside to this team is that they haven’t looked as great on the field as they did last season, but considering the stature of the club and what the fans are like, they won’t care. They’ve been grinding out wins with physicality and sheer persistence, and that’s the way that Atlético will look to roll in the Champions League. Their style doesn’t necessarily suit them, but it makes their opponents play worse and that gives Atleti the opportunities that they need to put games to bed.